Nags Head was much more than a beach back in those days. It was a way of life, a place built with the natural beauty of the land kept in mind as cottages were designed to blend in with the environment while also affording protection from it. In those days, the close knit community was made up with families who got to know each other and became friends. In the case of the owners of the unpainted aristocracy cottages, many of them knew one another from their planter and agricultural relationships back on the Inner Banks where many of them lived in the cooler months. They originally came both to escape the oppressive inland and the threat of malaria which was rampant in the area. They came for the entire summer, bringing everything they needed with them and they were so enamored by what they found that they even originated an Episcopal Church chapel nearby since most of them were Anglican. Prior to that, most who were faithful were either Methodist, Baptist of of the Holiness tradition by choice. And the gradual development of other portions of the beach were similar, only the cottages were often smaller yet of the same environmental standard with deep pilings to the raised foundation, shutters which could be quickly closed manually, extra nails in the cedar shingles and a porch. They represent a style that is all but gone at Nags Head and with that, the beach town has lost its uniqueness as it becomes just another city on the sea.
There is one other thing of note and it is the dory pulled up on the beach in the picture. For generations, Nags Headers fished for their supper in the ocean directly in front of their cottages. Fishermen would gather in the late afternoon to take the nets out to sea by dory and set them for the night. They were anchored to form a V with the top of the V onshore, with anchors placed onshore at both tops of the V and the third at the ocean midpoint. Then in the early morning before the dawn's light, the nets were retrieved and spread open on the beach, length-wise parallel to the surf, where fisherman and young boys would empty and sort the catch before it was distributed. We even did that in my early days and many was the morning when I had fresh fried fish wrapped in bacon with hashed brown potatoes and cornbread for breakfast. Yum, yum, that was a special morning.
When the fall arrived and the opening of school, all of the what I call permanent summer residents packed up and went home for the winter. We bid goodbye to those neighbors we wouldn't see in the off season, but you can bet it was a grand reunion when the next school year ended and we all gathered together for another summer. It was old home week all over again. It was small town USA in the summertime and it was a time to be footloose and fancy free with no fears and no worries, just sun, fishing and the sea. Oh, we had hurricanes and other storms, but we took them in stride and lived through them. The beach handled it back then better, for nature had the room and the places to send the water through and capture the loose blowing sand, before it sent it back where it came from. The water either flowed back out or percolated through the sandy soil that was at that time the not populated, scrub growth flatlands of the interior. Maybe, just maybe we ought to look back to our past to find out where we went wrong and what we could do better. Just a thought, my friends, just a thought.